Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Punitive Psychiatry Returns to Russia with a Vengeance in Case of Sakha Shaman

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 31 – Fifty years ago, the international community rose almost as one to denounce the Soviet practice of confining dissidents in psychiatric hospitals and treating them with mind-altering drugs, a practice Soviet doctors and officials justified by saying they were curing what they called “sluggish schizophrenia.”

            Now, Russian officials are following the same path, but there are two major differences: There hasn’t been an upsurge of international condemnation, and the authorities now are doing this without any attempt at denial. No one is talking about “sluggish schizophrenia” as Soviet doctors did. Officials are simply saying their victims are a threat to the system.

            Aleksey Pryanishnikov, coordinator of the Legal Defense Revelations group, says that in Yakutsk, a medical commission of the psycho-neurological center has concluded that Shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev, who sought to walk to Moscow to “exorcise Putin” is dangerous for himself and those around him (mbk.news/news/v-yakutii-vrachebnaya/).

            On June 1, the activist says, “almost three weeks after Gabyshev was confined in the center” and thus almost 20 days longer than the law allows, the doctors say that they will seek to have a court confirm their diagnosis and allow them to keep the shaman under lock and key and forcibly treat him, likely with mind-altering drugs.

            What the Russian officials and doctors are doing to the shaman is illegal and inhumane. What the international community is not doing by not protesting and coming to his defense is shameful, even complicitous, because it allows these Russian officials and doctors to get away with their criminal actions. 

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